It had been long enough. Too long, in fact.
Entering Friday’s San Joaquin Athletic Association home opener with Bear Creek, it had been exactly one month since the Tracy High boys basketball team had played at home — which was also the last time the Bulldogs won, a 67-55 victory over Livingston in the Tracy Winter Holiday Classic on Dec. 19.
And thanks to a second quarter 3-point shooting outburst from Nate Brown and Krys Lawson — with both junior guards hitting three 3s apiece en route to 21 team points in the frame — the Bulldogs got back into the win column and back to .500 in the SJAA with a 61-46 win at a raucous Swenson Gym.
“Our teammates kept finding us for open shots,” said Brown, whose 20 points were his highest since a 21-point performance against Modesto on Dec. 21. “Seemed like everything was going in — that’s the kind of game you hope for.”
It was Tracy’s highest point total since that tournament win, and their first league win at home since Feb. 1, 2006. The win, Tracy’s fourth on the year, matches last season’s overall total with eight league games left on the schedule.
“We were pumped up to win it for the home crowd,” said Lawson, who finished with 12 points on the night and hit a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the second quarter for a 10-point halftime lead. “The cheering and support gave us the adrenaline to finish the game,” he added.
Losing by a point after a quarter, the Bulldogs (1-1 SJAA, 4-11) used the Lawson-Brown tandem to go ahead for good midway through the second, but without vastly improved inside play from Stephen Memory and Mike Ligon to lure away Bear Creek (0-2, 4-13), it would never have happened.
Both hauled down the necessary boards, and both added nine points to their team’s total, allowing Brown, Lawson and Tracy’s other shooters to find open looks, something that the Bulldogs haven’t always been able to enjoy.
“He looked more comfortable in the game tonight, and was aggressive on both ends,” Tracy coach Paul Demsher said of Ligon. “He really contributed to this.”
After Lawson’s last-second 3 put Tracy up 32-22, the Bulldogs continued on a run until the 4 minute, 44 second mark of the third, when Memory completed a three-point play to extend the lead to a game-high 17 points. Bear Creek cut the lead to 11 entering the fourth but never came any closer.
The win gives Tracy a boost headed into next week, with a should-be-easy game with Chavez on Wednesday before a tough tilt with SJAA frontrunner Lodi on Friday. But for now, the Bulldogs will enjoy their weekends — victors and vindicated.
“We were always confident headed into league,” Brown said, “but we needed to prove it.”
Austin Jones led all scorers with 20 points as the Bullpups improved to 1-1 in SJAA play and 8-6 overall on the season.
Preston Mattos added 15 points, and Ruben Deleon saw fit to chip in with 11.
Tracy held a slim lead after a quarter and a three-point lead at halftime, but kept adding to it throughout the second half for the double-digit margin of victory.
A seesaw first half segued into an all-Tracy second, as the Bullpuppies recovered from a one-point halftime deficit to improve to 1-1 in SJAA play and 8-3 on the year.
Jordan Williams led Tracy’s shooters with 13 points, and three players — Mychael Jones, Daryl Dancy and Kevin Speer — added nine.
Tracy scored only six points in the first quarter to fall behind by 10, but recovered with a 14-point second to trail by one at the break.